HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s divisive voter identification requirement became the latest of its kind to get pushback from the courts ahead of Election Day, delivering a hard-fought victory to Democrats who said it was a ploy to defeat President Barack Obama and other opponents who said it would prevent the elderly and minorities from voting.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said in his ruling that he was concerned by the state’s stumbling efforts to create a photo ID that is easily accessible to voters and that he could not rely on the assurances of government officials at this late date that every voter would be able to get a valid ID.
If it stands, it is good news for Obama’s chances in Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s biggest electoral college prizes, unless Republicans and the tea party groups that backed the law find a way to use it to motivate their supporters and possibly independents.
Simpson based his decision on guidelines given to him two weeks ago by the state’s high court to determine whether the state had made photo IDs easily accessible to voters who needed them. It could easily be the final word on the law just five weeks before the Nov. 6 election, especially since Gov. Tom Corbett, who had championed the law, said he was leaning against appealing to the state Supreme Court.
“This decision is a big win for voters in Pennsylvania,” said Witold J. Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which helped challenge the law.
Well, maybe the dead voters.
Simpson’s ruling would not stop the law from going into full effect next year, though he could still decide later to issue a permanent injunction as part of the ongoing legal challenge to the law’s constitutionality.
The 6-month-old law — among the nation’s toughest — is one of many that has passed a Republican-controlled state Legislature since the last presidential election, and has sparked a divisive debate over voting rights ahead of the contest between Obama, a Democrat, and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, for Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes.
It was already a political lightning rod when a top state Republican lawmaker boasted to a GOP dinner in June that the ID requirement “is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
The law is one of about 20 tougher voter identification laws passed predominantly by Republican-controlled state Legislatures since the last presidential election. However, several states’ laws are not strict in their requirement for a photo ID, several others were vetoed by Democratic governors and still others — such as in Texas and Wisconsin — were held up by courts.
I think we need to be honest here. The purpose of voter ID laws is indeed to suppress voter turnout, among those who have no actual right to vote or those who wish to vote more than once, or those who are not too scrupulous about an honest count of the votes.
But I also have to say that if a person does not have any photo identification, than that is a person who is not legally employed, does not have a bank account, cannot legally drive a motor vehicle, cannot board an airplane, and cannot buy alcohol or tobacco. Such a person can only exist on the margins of our society and economy. It may sound harsh, but I have to wonder if such a person should be voting at all. It has become a seldom questioned truism that voting should be made as convenient as possible for as many people as possible. Therefore we have made voting and registering for voting easy with such devices as registering at license branches, same day registration and allowing voting by mail and even over the Internet.
I don’t agree with this approach. Aside from the fact that such devices make voter fraud ridiculously easy, I think voting should be made moderately difficult in order to weed out the unmotivated and ill-informed. If you cannot get up and see that you are registered to vote well in advance of election day and cannot get to a polling place, you have no business voting. I realize that there are some disabled people who may not be able to leave their homes, etc, and I think every provision should be made for such people, and there are reasons why people may need to vote absentee. I think that voting is a serious business, in that the act of voting is the only say most people have in the affairs of the country and it would be best if the unserious stayed out.
Ideally, I would like for there to be some sort of civics test which voters would need to pass. It need not be difficult. No memorizing the Constitution or anything like that. Just enough to stop people like this.
I think we can agree that if you don’t know who is actually running, you probably shouldn’t vote.
- Judge halts Pa.’s tough new voter ID requirement (news.yahoo.com)
- Judge halts Pa.’s tough new voter ID requirement (cnsnews.com)
- Judge Halts Pennsylvania Voter ID Law Until After Election (nation.time.com)